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Winning Moves, Part III: Increasing Front Court Touches for Anthony Davis

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of the regular season, five specific areas will be discussed in depth that I believe will be key in getting the Pelicans to the postseason. They will be as follows:

  1. Greater Ball Movement
  2. Utilizing More Catch and Shoot Situations
  3. Increasing Front Court Touches for Anthony Davis
  4. Correctly Maximizing Rotations
  5. Establishing an Identity on Defense


Anthony Davis was Underutilized in 2013-14

Last season, Anthony Davis put up a line of 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.8 blocks. He was efficient with the ball (7th best TOV% for players averaging 25+ minutes/game), at the foul line (6th highest FT%among PF/C averaging 25 + minutes/game) and from the field (10th highest TS% among PF/C averaging 25+ minutes a game). He was an All-Star and finished third in the Most Improved balloting. All this in his age 20 season. Yet, the stats and the accolades probably failed to do him justice -- he could have done more, had he just been given the opportunity.

Points per Possession Points Per Shot True Shooting % Usage %
Anthony Davis 1.18 1.16 58.2% 25.2%
Dirk Nowitzki 1.25 1.20 60.3% 26.9%
LaMarcus Aldridge 1.07 1.01 50.7% 29.8%
Kevin Love 1.18 1.17 59.1% 28.8%
Blake Griffin 1.13 1.16 58.3% 29.0%

Listed above are what many consider to be the best power forwards in the game. After all, they were each 2014 All-Stars. Nowitzki proved that NBA greats age like a fine wine. Conversely, Aldridge didn't catch enough flak for posting his worst shooting percentage of his career. In general though, nothing too surprising for avid fans. Now have a look at how often they caught the ball and then converted those looks into points on their team's offensive side of the floor.

Front Court Touches Points per Half Court Touch
Anthony Davis 32.2 .65
Dirk Nowitzki 40.9 .53
LaMarcus Aldridge 42.2 .55
Kevin Love 49.7 .53
Blake Griffin 53.9 .45

Anthony Davis mark of .65 points per half court touch placed him 5th in the NBA (out of players averaging 25+ minutes a game). On the other hand, his 32.2 front court touches ranked 159th. The next worst ratio belonged to Nowitzki who had the 20th best points per half court touch and was 90th in total front court touches. However, the German's ratio shouldn't surprise anyone nearly as much. He was 35 years old. His playing time and activity were closely monitored after a disappointing prior season due to knee surgery.

Out of the four players, Davis' touches should have approached Kevin Love territory (who ranked 22nd in PTS p/HCT and 56th in FCT). Their points per possession were identical and they were easily the best players on their respective teams. Love only had several regulars who were in the same ballpark of efficiency (Pekovic, Martin); similarly, only Ryan Anderson and Anthony Morrow compared well in PPP to Davis.

Yet, one wouldn't believe in parallel relationships when examining the amount of touches they got on their respected teams. Love ranked 2nd on his team in front court touches, Davis 6th. It is common knowledge that guards will lead their teams in touches. Ultimately, they bring the ball up the court and are responsible for initiating the offense. However, a team should still manage to get the proper amount of touches to the necessary focal points of their offense.

Despite being on a team surrounded by efficient scorers, Blake Griffin was also 2nd on his team in front court touches. Aldridge was 4th, but he should count his lucky stars as he was the least efficient Portland starter. As we've mentioned, the Mavericks were careful with Nowitzki. At least, he had the support of a more productive roster.

Davis never had any such excuses. To make matters worse, and to further drive the knife deeper into our backs, Davis didn't even lead the Pelicans in points per half court touch! He was narrowly edged out by Ryan Anderson. That's right. The Pelicans had two players in the top 5 in this curious new Sports VU statistic, but only ranked 6th and 7th on the team in front court touches. Pure madness, but we'll save this juicy tidbit for the next part of this series.

Superstars Deserve Touches

AD's sophomore season, one where he was 20 years old for the vast majority of it,  is arguably the best in history. By many accounts, he was knocking on the door to superstardom for all of last season. Michael McNamara recently wrote an article in which I agreed with his selection of current superstars.

Front Court Touches Points per Possession Usage % PER
Anthony Davis 32.2 1.18 25.2% 26.5
LeBron James 63.8 1.21 31.0% 29.3
Kevin Durant 57.2 1.23 33.0% 29.8
Kevin Love 49.7 1.18 28.8% 26.9
Stephen Curry 70.9 1.14 28.3% 24.1
Chris Paul 82.5 1.12 23.7% 25.9

Davis was on the court for 2358 minutes. He didn't suffer through any peaks and valleys that is typically associated with young players. Was it not apparent this wrecking ball deserved to be on a larger diet? Fellow teammates? Coaches?

As witnessed, Davis isn't some sort of one-dimensional stiff. His speed for a player of his size destroys opponents in transition, pick and rolls and cuts of any kind. His shooting range goes out to the three point line, and maybe even beyond at some point this upcoming season. The ball-handling skills have rarely ever been seen at his position. He doesn't turn the ball over, but if you foul him, he'll make you pay at the line. Offensively, Davis truly has no weaknesses.

Concluding Thoughts

This preseason Anthony Davis per 36 statistics are ridiculous: 24.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 3.0 blocks. His efficiency has been otherworldly: a 58.3 FG%, 77.4 FT% and .9 TOV! But my favorite has been his 63.1 TS%!! That mark would best every single campaign of Dirk Nowitzki's glorious career.

It's really a simply philosophy -- get one of the transcendental talents in the NBA the ball at a much higher rate and then get the hell out of the way. Anthony Davis will take care of the rest.